By: Peter Beckley
What I love most about Africa is travelling to and from the West Coast. To say the least, for most of the time you have to contend with the most impolite ground crew on earth, arrogant air stewardesses, and worse of all miss your flight connections with no apologies or even explanations offered, but I love it.
My first experience was in Banjul, the Gambia. On the day I was scheduled to travel to Freetown, I was told that the flight will leave at 8.00 am. I checked in at 6.00 am. There was no plane. The ground crew told us the aircraft was being serviced. It turned out to be a blatant lie.
So I ended up spending twelve hours waiting for a flight that had been scheduled for Freetown, but instead, had to make a “quick” shuttle to Guinea-Bissau to drop off ‘some diplomats’. That was what we were told. Who was I to argue? But I did not stop loving Africa.
Experience number two, Abidjan International Airport, Ivory Coast. I spent three hours at the airport waiting for the hotel transport. The driver was rude. He asked me to speak French when I spoke English. “This is not your bloody country,” he said. At the hotel I was not served what I ordered for dinner because I could not say it in French. But I loved it.
Experience number three, Gbessia International Airport, Conakry, Guinea. My suitcase was torn open and my radio stolen. I was searched like a criminal. The customs man asked me to take of my trousers. The story ended there because I could not take it any more. I created a scene and my fellow passengers protested on my behalf. They had to let go.
The next day, was my departure date. The Ghana Airways flight from Dakar was full. The ground crew had just told me that I bought a ‘request’ ticket, so they could not take me on the flight. I was not prepared to spend another night in Conakry after the experience I had the previous day. I had to cough up an extra sum of money (I cannot disclose amount) for a seat in first class. Can you immagine? But I loved it.
Experience number four, Robertsfield Airport, Monrovia, Liberia. The customs oficers were going to give me an injection because I did not travel with my health card (yellow card). I refused. They said they would send me back to Freetown. I replied “that is fine”.
They kept me at the airport for one hour. The staff driver who had come to the airport to pick me up, found out and intervened. I was allowed to leave, but reluctantly. But I loved it.
Infact my resolve grew stronger with every experience because they were always adequately compensated for. For example, dining on exotic meat at a fancy Nairobi restaurant called “The Canivore”. Zebra, Ostrich, Wildebeast, and Crocodile meat were part of the exotic menu.
The meat is roasted on a giant grill, set right in the centre of the huge restaurant. It actually reminded me of hell. Poor animals!
At Johanesburg International Airport, I was wowed by the shops. Unfortunately I could not afford half of the things on sale. I encouraged myself by window-shopping for three hours, which was my stopover time.
[notification type=”info”] I enjoyed eating fufu and light soup at the Paloma Restaurant in Accra, and visiting the art centre. [/notification]
I can go on and on but I must say that in all my travels worldwide, coming back to Freetown has remained to be the most exciting prospect. Surprised? Well, there is no place like home, and Freetown has the peculiar power to instill nostalgia in the most hardened ‘comers and goers’.
I know most of you will agree with me on that. Freetown my Freetown! Ever faithful! Ever sure